Yes, I live on the other side of the Resurrection-I know the end of the disciples’ vigil-I am convinced of the empty tomb, the ascended Lord and my Great High Priest’s intercession at the right hand of the Father.
But what I long for I cannot hold. What I hope for I cannot touch. What I know to be true I cannot see.
I live in the space between “it looks like everything has gone horribly wrong” and “Hallelujah!”.
It is painful. It is hard.
And it will last for a lifetime, not just a few days.
The world is waiting breathless for salvation from the prison of hopelessness.
We long for an end to the tyranny of fear, physical destruction and the power of an enemy that is stalking, harming and killing those we love.
Rumors of imminent help pass from lips to lips but rescue is still a distant hope.
Israel was waiting too.
And that is when God gave Isaiah this message for His people:
“Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams, a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift. And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great. The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders. His name? His name we’ll know in many ways— He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing, Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 VOICE
This message is for us as well-so much truth, hope and promise packed into a single verse!
The Christmas story is all about beginnings and seeds of promise. But Jesus didn’t remain an infant and the prophet takes us from birth to Second Coming in a few sentences.
Yes, a Son was given but that Son grew into a Savior.
I’m oh, so thankful that the Baby in the manger is now the reigning Prince of Peace! I cling tightly to the truth that He is my “Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing, Master of Wholeness”!
The day Dominic died I wrote in my journal:
“The LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the Name of the LORD. May my soul find rest in Thee alone. May my eyes look only to Thy face. May my heart’s peace be the Prince of Peace. ‘Dominic’–belonging to God–You gave him to me and he is Yours again. Marana Tha–Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
When Jesus was preparing the disciples for His death, He knew they would need a Counselor in their grief. They would need a guide through the difficult and scary and confusing path they were about to walk.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit-the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
John 14:26 CSB
Because I believe with my whole heart in the sufficiency of Christ’s blood and the supremacy of His Lordship, I am filled with His Spirit.
What a gift!To have the Living God in me–my ever present Guide even on this most treacherous journey.
This is what the Baby came to bring-restoration, redemption and ever-lasting life.
An end to the tyranny of destruction and fear.
A hope and an eternal future.
I once heard a Bible teacher explain Isaiah’s visions like this: It’s as if he saw two mountain peaks clearly (the earthly beginning of Jesus’ life, ministry and sacrifice and the ultimate, powerful rule and reign of His Second Coming) but couldn’t see the valley in between. I think that idea is perfectly illustrated by these verses. Jesus has come but there is still much suffering. What promises do you cling to in this Valley?
Do the names of Jesus described in these verses bring you hope? Why or why not?
Which is your favorite? Consider using a concordance to look up other verses in which it is used. Does that flesh out the meaning in any way?
I have frequently copied this passage into my journal and illustrated it in various ways. If you’ve never done something like that, try it. Writing the words in my own hand has really made them come alive in my heart.
You will notice I use a variety of translations in these devotionals. There are a number of free online Bible resources that will allow you to compare multiple translations at the same time. Try it with these verses or others. How does that help you gain a greater and deeper understanding of God’s Word?
There are days when my candle has burned low and my heart is heavy with grief. There are moments when hope feels so far away I can’t even imagine it still exists. Just then, You whisper, “Courage, My child”, to my soul.
So many times I’m at a loss for words but the Counselor prays for me. Often I wonder if there will ever be justice for the cruelty I see around me but I’m reminded that You are the Mighty God and will not allow injustice to reign forever. When peace feels like a distant dream, You come with a lamp as the Prince of Peace and flood my heart with wholeness.
Thank You that I have a Savior. Thank You that He conquered death. Thank You for these words of truth.
Some things happened that mean the next few months are going to be extra painful, extra stressful and extra challenging.
But I had a grace-filled, heartwarming visit with another bereaved mama who came all the way from Maine just to hang out with me. And that was so, so good.
As she and I shared over coffee and tea, shopping and meals, lounging and walking we found so many ways in which our journeys have been similar even though the details are really very different.
One is this: There was a distinct moment along the way when each of us began to see light and color again in the midst of our darkness and pain and it was a turning point.
When I was forced unwillingly on this long, hard journey, everything was dark. Nothing sparked joy. The whole world became a grainy black and white image on an ancient TV and it was fuzzy, flat and utterly uninteresting.
What’s worse, my heart could only REALLY feel two things-pain and love-and they were so inextricably intertwined I was no longer sure which was which.
I couldn’t run fast enough or far enough to escape the darkness or the pain.
I had to face all the awful of child loss, embrace it, feel it, work through it, talk about it in safe spaces with safe people and sit quietly for hours with my thoughts and uncomfortable emotions. I had to let time do the work that only time can do.
There are no shortcuts on this journey.
And then there was a moment when I saw something beautiful and felt something wonderful and I didn’t have to TELL my heart it was beautiful and wonderful.
I just KNEW and I could FEEL it.
At first, these moments didn’t last long and were isolated. But eventually the moments came faster, lasted longer and were closer together. I learned to embrace them, hold onto them, build upon them and look for them.
Now, the moments of light, life and color make up most of my days.
I have not forgotten Dominic. My heart aches to see him again, hold him again, share life with him again. But I’ve learned to hold that yearning for the life I used to have and gratitude for the life I live now in the same heart. I’ve found that allowing joy to fill my soul doesn’t push him away or to the side as if he doesn’t matter.
So if you think there is no way you can survive this awful, awful journey, keep going.
If you are still in the dark days and fearful light will never penetrate the depth of your pain and despair, hold on.
Backing up my rear tire hit the edge of a little stump and the sidewall blew out with a loud “whoosh”.
No fixing that. No way to plug it or patch it or make it work for just a little longer.
That tire was toast.
I bought a new one.
But imagine if that wasn’t an option. Imagine if I had to take the ripped apart shreds of what was left of that tire and cobble it together to make do. Imagine if it barely held air,had to be pumped up each morning and needed attention every mile or so just to keep going.
That would be exhausting and enough to make you wonder if traveling anywhere was worth it.
That’s how my heart feels these past days.
When Dominic ran ahead to heaven it was like my heart exploded into a thousand tiny bits. So many fragments with no way to put them back together.
But getting a new heart isn’t an option-I’m stuck with this broken one.
And I have to keep on going. Even when it takes every ounce of energy to hold it together, even when I can barely make two steps without feeling like it’s going to fall apart again, even when I want to give up.
So today, and maybe tomorrow too, I’m going to just sit here.
I’m going to give myself permission to acknowledge that my heart is broken, I feel deflated and defeated and pushing through is not something I have to do if I don’t feel like I can.
I’m pretty sure the feeling will pass.
I’ll gather strength and manage to glue the bits back together in a day or two, add air and travel on.
When Dominic died, I was unaware of any resources available to bereaved parents other than books written on the subject. Thankfully, through personal contacts and Google searches, I found out about groups, online communities, blogs and excellent articles that helped me understand I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t crazy and I could survive.
I am working on a series of posts that will highlight some of the most helpful things people did for me and our family in the early days of our grief journey. I will also share the physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological challenges and experiences of bereavement.
If you are a bereaved parent or someone who loves a bereaved parent, please consider joining me on my public Facebook page: Heartache and Hope:Life After Losing a Child and share your perspective.
Someone suggested not too long after Dominic died that I might start a group for bereaved parents in my area–there aren’t any close by in our rural Alabama county.
I was not even ready to talk openly about my own feelings, much less listen to and absorb the pain of other grieving parents.
A few months ago I was introduced to a wonderful ministry called While We Are Waiting (whilewearewaiting.org) and discovered the blessing of belonging to a community of people who (unfortunately) know how I feel and can relate to my experience as a bereaved parent. I began to realize that Facebook can be a place to connect people that otherwise might feel isolated in their pain.
I’m still not ready to sit face-to-face with more than one or two people at a time for deep conversation about life and death and fear and hope.
But I have opened a FaceBook page–Heartache and Hope:Life After Losing a Child–and it is public-although I am moderating posts. I want to facilitate a way for parents in my area or in their own area, to find one another and form communities of support.
For some of us, online will be best. Others may choose to get together in physical spaces. Whatever works and brings hope to grieving hearts is wonderful.
I am not going to “invite friends” to like this page-thankfully, I don’t have that many people on my friend list who have buried children. But I am inviting those who read my blog, and who have themselves lost a child to “like” the Heartache and Hope page. And please invite other bereaved parents too.
There is no agenda other than encouraging one another in Christ and reminding ourselves of the hope we have in Jesus: death is defeated, the grave is not the end, and our children will one day be reunited with us in glory.
Listen very carefully, I tell you a mystery [a secret truth decreed by God and previously hidden, but now revealed]; we will not all sleep [in death], but we will all be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed],in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at [the sound of] the last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead [who believed in Christ] will be raised imperishable, and we will be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed]. For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us that is capable of dying] must put on immortality [which is freedom from death].And when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says, “Death is swallowed up in victory (vanquished forever).O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 AMP